Preparing for EU organic flavourings crackdown

17 Feb 2020

EU rules governing flavourings in organic foods are set to change in 2021, with many natural flavourings becoming off-limits to food and beverage makers who wish to keep their organic certification. What options will remain open?

The European Union is cracking down on the range of natural flavourings allowed in organic foods and beverages, and from January 2021 it will start considering them as agricultural ingredients in their own right. From next year, at least 95% of the material used in a flavouring ingredient will have to come from a natural named source, or be an extract with 100% of the flavouring derived from a natural named source.

Preparing for EU organic flavourings crackdown
Organic food makers face tighter flavouring regulations

In practice, this means 95% of a natural raspberry flavour, for example, must come from raspberries, with the remaining 5% of flavouring from natural sources permitted to modify the flavour. In addition, flavourings will be considered agricultural ingredients, so those from sources that are not certified organic must constitute less than 5% of the total in an organic product.

Many suppliers have been developing organic flavouring ingredients for years – including big flavour houses like Firmenich – as some companies have strived for 100% organic ingredients, even though the regulatory system has allowed some leeway. Now these ingredients – and other permitted natural flavours – look set for a major boost, as manufacturers look for alternatives to current flavourings that will allow them to continue making organic claims.

The UK’s organic trade body, the Soil Association, has acknowledged that adhering to the new rules will be very difficult for some products, and says natural flavours for fruit teas or sweet flavours may be particularly hard to source, especially with the same flavour profile. At the moment, natural flavourings with as little as 30% material from the named source are allowed in organic products, but these will not be permissible in organic foods from next year.

The 95% threshold will allow very little room for flavour modification, and 100% natural extracts will allow none at all.

Givaudan is among the suppliers positioning itself to help food manufacturers reformulate so they can adhere to the new rules, whether through matching existing taste profiles, or through developing new flavour varieties. Symrise is also promoting its range or EU-compliant flavours ahead of the rule change, including for spice and herb flavours, vegetables and meat.

The rule change undoubtedly will cause headaches for many organic manufacturers, but relinquishing organic certification as a result is unlikely to be an option for most, considering the size and importance of the organic sector in Europe. According to Mintel, organic is the most highly valued product claim in all food categories and all key markets across the region. Instead, manufacturers are gearing up for the change, and this in turn has spurred innovation among suppliers and looks set to expand the diversity of natural flavourings from the named source.

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